Friday, September 30, 2011

Your military pension is not safe. It might not be paid or may be substantially reduced.

Military pensions are on the chopping block
you may lose all or part of your military pension.

The US Department of Defense Business Board (DBB), an advisory board whose mission is to provide independent advice and recommendations to the Department of Defense, has proposed the reorganization of current and future military pensions. In general, they have said:
  • Military retirement is more generous and expensive compared to the private sector (meaning we are giving soldiers too much money).
  • The current retirement plan is unfair because you have to be in the service for 20 years to be eligible.
  • It is unaffordable and inflexible.
So, they want to replace it with a new Defined Contribution Plan in which:
  • Soldiers will pay for their own retirement instead.
  • Is not payable until 60 to 65 year of age (rather than after retirement)
  • Will pay much smaller amounts ($3,600 compared to $24,000 per year for E7 age 40)
  • Is mandatory
  • Will be similar to a 401K plan (invested in the stock market)
  • But, the government will pay some.
Their argument is that all soldiers would be eligible for a Military pension after the vesting period rather than being limited to only those soldiers who have 20 years of service.

However, they fail to highlight that the current pensions are:
  • Currently 100% Free to All Soldiers.
  • There is no risk of losing this benefit.
  • Important factors in military retention.
A review of the credentials of the members of the DBB indicates that many are associated with the Mergers and Acquisition (M&A) industry, including the Chairman and Vice Chairman. The job of the M&A industry is to financially restructure and merge companies. In return, the M&A receives large sums of money. Many other members are associated with money management firms and investment banks. So, their proposal is based on their own self-interest goal of making money off the soldiers retirement income.

The DBB proposal advocates that both the government and soldiers contribute to the new Defined Contribution Plan. This means that someone needs to manage this amount of money. So, all or part would be managed by one or more private investment financial companies who would take portions of the contributions as payment for their services. Under their proposal,
  • Career soldiers would receive much smaller pensions
  • Money is at risk of being lost in the stock market
  • Soldiers would get poorer
  • The financial industry would get richer.
I believe that pensions for teachers, policemen, firefighters and soldiers are well deserved. Soldiers in particular do not earn a large amount of money. Making them pay for their retirement would be a financial hardship to them. If this plan was passed by our current administration, it would probably result in an immediate decline in the recruiting and retention of our military forces. Remember:

Soldiers put their life at risk every day
so that we can be safe.
They can be killed at any time.

Their retirement is the least we can do as Americans to say thanks!

You can learn more about this important issue by visiting and reading the sources listed below.

Military pension reform means an 85% cut for career veterans
Retiree Benefits for the Military Could Face Cuts
Modernizing the Military Retirement System (DDB - pfd)
Defense Business Board - The Members
Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed

Friday, September 23, 2011

In-state tuition for illegal or undocumented children? Yes.

A lot of criticism has been focused on Rick Perry's stance on providing in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants. This is one area where the Republican candidate and the Democratic party agree.

And, I, although a staunch conservative, strongly 
agree and support this position.

As a young child, I was raised by multiple families. But, I was blessed that they all agreed that my education was most important. All I had to do was go to school and study hard. If I did that, my tuition was completely paid for. Yes, I was blessed to have my adoptive parents, God, and my real mother in heaven watching over me. Because of their actions, I have had a successful career. I stressed the value of an education to my child, and he is now out of college and has a terrific job.

But what about all the other children in this country who suffer difficult lives? As Governor Perry states, the children of illegal immigrants were either born here or brought to this country. They didn't deal their hand, but live with the consequences of their parents decision daily.

Both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum blast Perry for the Texas law. Both cite the amount of money that the public is paying to subsidize the illegal children's education. They also say that Texas is denying a discounted education to other children of legalized status that live in other states. Neither take into account that:
  • children in other states can attend their own state universities
  • the cost of the education is paid by the people of Texas, and not the people of the United States.
Currently, 13 states have passed laws allowing undocumented children to be eligible to pay the reduced tuition if they meet certain condidions. In Texas, those who:
  • have graduated high school in Texas,
  • lived in the state for 3 years, and
  • are applying for citizenship,
are eligible. To me, applying for citizenship is the critical requirement because it shows that the children are dedicated to our country, its beliefs, and opportunities.

While I'm not advocating the tolerance of illegal immigration,  I do support Mr. Perry and others, regardless of party, in their actions to provide these children with the opportunity to have a productive and rewarding life as educated citizens of the United States.

States that have passed Illegal Immigrant Tuition Legislation (see "illegal Immigrants ..." below):
  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. Illinois
  4. Kansas
  5. Maryland
  6. Nebraska
  7. New Mexico
  8. New York
  9. Oklahoma (with discretion)
  10. Texas
  11. Utah
  12. Washington
  13. Wisconsin
Note that neither Romney's Massachusetts or Santorum's Pennsylvania are on the list.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Know what your website is worth to you and others

Determining the value of your website or blog depends on the viewpoint of the person asking. To those who are hoping to sell their website, the buyers viewpoint (others) is most important. The consensus of all experts agree that:

Your site is worth whatever someone is willing to pay.

This is because: a buyer estimates the worth of a website based on the income it will return.

Similarly, however, a site owner also values its website based on the income it currently returns.

Example: Let us consider a 5 year old website which nets a clear profit of $2,000 per year and targets a unique audience. At current interest rate levels, we find that 5 year CD's are yielding 2.00% per year. This means that the site owner has the equivilent of $100,000 invested in the CD which returns $2,000 per year. Thus, the owner correctly considers the value of his site to be worth $100,000. His risk, however, is interest rates. If the 5 year rate increases to 4.00%, then the value of the site will drop to $50,000.

Many authors cite a website's worth based on a fixed multiple of current income. The multiples range from 5 times earnings to 20 times earnings.  This seems rather arbitrary, but from this, we can value the above site to be worth $10,000 to $40,000. Remember however, most of these multiples were established several years ago when interest rates were higher, and may have been in line at that time.

A person who purchases an emerging website is taking a risk, and therefore expects to earn a higher rate of return on his investment. Assuming an investor targets a 10% return, he is willing to spent $20,000 for a website that is returning $2,000 per year. The $20,000 value can be determined using a 10 times multiple.

However, there are many intangibles which can increase or decrease a sites value. For example, if the site is being developed on a part time basis, the full suite of its potential reach may not be acheived. A buyer may indeed see that by adding a bit more manpower resources, the site may grow exponentially.  Conversely, a blog whose content is based solely on the author's experience or memoirs, may be of little or no value to a potential buyer.

If the income of a website has continually increased since the launch of the site, future income growth may also be anticipated. If this is the case, the the value of a website should increase. However, if newly launched competition hits the web arena and threatens to reduce a website's reach, then the value of a website would naturally decrease.

So, returning to our original example and utilizing all of this information, we could reasonably expect the 5 year old website profiting $2,000 per year to be conservatively valued at $100,000 to the owner, but only $20,000 (plus an intangible margin which could range anywhere from $0 to millions of dollars). Thus, I would set a minimum price of $50,000 for this particular website example but would push for its upside potential.

Remember: It's up to you to influence what a buyer is willing to pay in order for you to receive its full potential value.

Below is a summary of intangible items that can potentially increase your website's worth substantially:
  • Content Uniqueness
  • Cost to replicate
  • Demand
  • Potential earnings
  • Branding
  • Domain name desirability
  • Income Diversification
  • Traffic sources
  • Visitor demographics
  • Design
  • Age of site
  • Search Engine position
  • Tax implications

You can learn more by reading the websites below.

Friday, September 9, 2011

911 WTC memories of family & friends - Oh, I wish you were here

Source: - Day of Terror: A Photo Gallery
September 11, 2001 was a beautiful day. The skies were blue and summer was over. People were returning to work after a long holiday weekend. Kids were going back to school. Seminars were being attended. Contractors were soliciting business. People were riding the elevators. Coffee was being brewed. Calls were being made. Pictures being developed. Folks were laughing and dreams of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were coming to mind. Oh, what a beautiful day.

Then suddenly, without warning, a plane flew into the World Trade Center. At 8:46 AM, Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower 1. Tower 2, the South Tower was attacked 16 minutes later at 9:02 AM. At 9:36 AM, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Heroically, the passengers of Flight 93 resisted the hijackers and forced the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field.

The devastating damages resulted in the total collapse of both World Trade Center towers, killing thousands within seconds.

Ten Years Later

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of that fateful day. It will be commemorated by the families of victims at ceremonies held at the various crash sites. Now, the families and friends only have memories of those who were lost. Babies are now turning 10, children are teenagers and young adults. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives only have memories. Perhaps the lyrics of Pink Floyd captures their thoughts:

Wish You Were Here
 lyrics by Pink Floyd
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Lest we forget this horror and tragedy we are doomed to eternal suffering. May the videos below serve as a reminder of why we are free.

For me, I will never forget the smiling faces of many old friends. I will never see again. But I know that my pain is dwarfed by the agony of the suffering families who lost one or more of their loved ones that day.

To those who are searching for solace, remember you are never alone. I and many others will never forget your beloved. And every day I look at the sky, and I think to myself: I wish you were here!

Days of Terror: A Photo Gallery
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here Lyrics

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ideas for bloggers to write about and how to find them

Two questions bloggers continually as themselves and others are:

What should I write about today?
How do I get ideas for my blog?

After blogging for 5 years and facing these questions myself, I have found that ideas come from a variety of public sources: television, family topics, radio, advertisements, politics, other blogger articles, and more.

Sometimes my topics are planned, and other times they are spontaneous. For example, one morning I listened to a radio tidbit about a Supermoon. So, I decided to research it and wrote an article about Supermoons. This is currently in my top 10 most read posts.

In addition, ideas come from technical tools that many bloggers already use, such as Feedjit and Google Webmaster Tools because both of these sources list search terms that potential readers have used to find your site.  For example, last July I wrote an article about my 4th of July plans which mentions that we have a chicken barbecue. Then earlier this week, a visitor found this post by searching for:

How to cook chicken on an outdoor pit?

Since my article does not discuss this in detail, the question provides an excellent topic for a future discussion.

Unlike many other blogs that are focused on a particular topic, Ask the Blogster is broad enough in scope which allows a variety of topics to be questioned and answered.

Among the many questions and topics that I have for future posts are:
  • How much money can I spend?
  • Can I buy everything advertised on television and radio?
  • Are work at home offers scams?
  • How sharing my working experiences with my son helped his education and got him a job.
  • What will happen if I lose my job?
  • What will I do when my unemployment runs out?
  • My favorite zucchini casserole.
  • My political opinions about spending and taxes.
My list can  go on and on, but at the beginning of the day,  I must choose a topic and write about it. Since I only write a post once a week, many of these topics will never be addressed. However, having prepared a list of topics makes the process of writing a post much easier and less stressful.

So, whether you have a "money making",  "sports", "cooking", "political", "mommy related", "technical", "biographical", or "a general purpose" blog, I encourage all of you to continually ask yourself: "Is this a good topic for my blog?" whenever you hear, see, or read something (no matter what you are doing).

If you think it possibly is, then write it down for future reference. In time, your list will reward you with a variety of excellent topics.
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